Affordable Housing Workshop

On a miserable, cold and wet day in September, a group of architects gathered at the Abbotsford Convent for the ArchiTeam Affordable Housing Workshop.

The workshop was kicked off by presentations from thinkers and researchers Professor Roz Hansen, an Urban Planner from Hansen Consulting and Dr Tom Alves from the Transforming Housing project at the University of Melbourne.

Together they provided the context for a stimulating and thought provoking day, laying bare the statistics in regard to homelessness, rising median house prices and the reality that the current strategy of simply providing more housing is not solving the problem of affordability.

Professor Hansen spoke of the challenges and barriers to affordable housing development and the strategies and solutions that Governments and institutions can implement, including methods for the procurement and funding of affordable housing projects.

Dr Alves’ presentation on encouraging deliberative development for the housing market in lieu of the current speculative development model demonstrated how urban policy makers could transform the current trend for poorly-designed, environmentally unsustainable and unaffordable housing.

Between them Professor Hansen and Dr Alves noted that whilst Architects currently have little impact on housing affordability, they can support solutions in housing affordability through innovative design, sustainability and the use of emerging building technologies.

Demonstrating how this is possible was the following group of presenters:

  • Catherine Ranger, Associate Director, MGS Architects Pty Ltd
  • Marcus Lyon, Director, Brunswick Group
  • Alex Fearnside, Treasurer, Urban Coup
  • Heidi Lee, Murundaka Co-housing Project

Their examples of emerging design models in social housing, co-operatives and co-housing revealed projects that were creative and engaging contributions to our built environment and the communities that inhabit them.  Despite all the challenges!

Attendees re-convened after lunch, inspired to participate in a Studio Esquisse.  The brief was to work in groups to design affordable housing solutions on a variety of potential development sites that had been identified by the City of Melbourne.   At the conclusion of the workshop, each group presented their inventive solutions to Dean Griggs, Manager of Social Investment, City of Melbourne, responsible for the delivery of programs for the homeless.

I expect many attendees left the workshop feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the magnitude of homelessness and the rising problem of housing unaffordability.  I hope that like me, they were also inspired to inform and educate their clients and peers about affordable housing opportunities.  That they will seek to engage with local government councillors, planners and sustainability officers about the barriers to affordable housing.  That they will continue to research and implement innovative design and building technologies in their work.  And that they will keep the conversation going with others in their network of clients, colleagues, consultants, friends and family.

Angelica Inserra is director of Angelica Inserra Architect